This franchise plays host to the DNA of every sci-fi shooter ever put to pixel or cel. The dimly lit corridors, the unseen enemy, the lashings of gore and the chunky near-future weaponry and it’s all centered around space marines. The original space marines too, not those Turok rip-offs. So Sega has the daddy of all sci-fi shooters, and it’s not likely to cock things up. The game has been hidden away in development at Gearbox, the dev with a solid track record in first-person shooters, and is most famous for its Brothers in Arms squad-based series.
Best known for realistic presentation and tactical accuracy, Gearbox is the ideal developer to turn the Aliens franchise into the perfect space marine game. You’ll control a squad of six pumped-up marines sent on a mission to search the ghost ship USS Sulaco after the crew has vanished. Now we know Ripley escaped and her crew of gun-toting marines ended up as meat for the off-world critters on Hadley’s Hope terraforming colony, but the Colonial Marines (to give them their proper name) don’t know what to expect.
The game’s story is being written by Battlestar Galactica’s writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle and is set after the events of the Aliens and Alien 3 movies. The game not only features the adrift Sulaco, but also the Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161 prison facility and the derelict alien spacecraft from the original movie as backdrops to the action. One aspect of the story that ties neatly into the Aliens universe is the use of the Weyland Yutani Corporation as an over-arching evil, a puppet-master pulling the strings behind the action. Though your immediate survival against the Sulaco’s alien infestation is your primary concern, the game will build in a conspiracy story behind the gunplay. And who knows, maybe an unexpected betrayal.
Each mission will put you in the space armor of a different marine in the six-man squad. You’ll use commands familiar to Brothers in Arms players to guide your troop through the maze of acid-blasted corridors, trying to stay ahead of the critters. By focusing on one squad member at a time, Gearbox has been able to create an episodic feel to the action. Back stories, plot details and characters gently expand and you’ll get a deeper perspective on the action. It also means that the game will have a very immediate feel – you can dip in for an hour at a time to play out one episode of the full story arc.
Before you reach for the keyboard and start hurling abuse at Gearbox, this is no casual blaster. There will be more than six episodes to wade through, including some revelations that could affect the Aliens canon. The game builds slowly, emulating the slow burn pace of the movies. Your first foray onto the abandoned USS Sulaco is a tense affair with few aliens to be seen and only the ominous pinging from your handheld motion detector for company.